Trigger Warning: This article contains recollections of child abuse that happened in Canada’s residential “schools” which may be triggering. Please read with care.
In 1986, Alphonse Little Poplar and Irene Fineday welcomed a family friend named David Doyle to their family land on the Sweetgrass First Nation. Mr. Doyle spent three months staying in a small building next to their home, over the winter. He spent his evenings interviewing Alphonse, recording these interviews on a cassette recorder. After leaving the reserve, Mr. Doyle had their contents transcribed. Unfortunately, over time all of the cassettes save for one were accidentally destroyed.
In June of 2020, Mr. Doyle gifted Eden Fineday, IndigiNews’ Business Aunty, and Alphonse and Irene’s granddaughter, with ownership and possession of the manuscript containing all of her grandfather’s transcribed stories. IndigiNews is publishing these stories so that Alphonse’s incredible memories and gentle storytelling may be shared with our readers.
Portions of this manuscript have previously been published in the Battlefords News Optimist.
The nuns all spoke French; they came from Quebec. Sisters of Assumption or something.
Soon after I got [to Thunder Child “residential school”] I found out that [the] nuns were not afraid to kill me.
Every Saturday afternoon a shoemaker used to come. You would bring your shoes and he would oil them – those that didn’t need repairs. He would patch up something for you if it was broken.
My shoe was in bad shape. The sole was just hanging on there by a couple of tacks. I had to walk with a slide and a slap with each step. I went down the basement to the shoemaker’s room to get my shoe fixed. Before you go in to see the shoemaker you have to tell a nun what is wrong; she records how many shoes he repairs. There was a big nun [in black] sitting there. She was a Métis woman. On her ankle she wore a brace, a steel brace. You could hear her coming for half a mile. She was sitting by the door on a chair. She asked me, “What do you want?”
I showed her my shoe and said, “My shoe, the sole is damn near off.”
“Sit down there and take it off,” she said, pointing to a bench beside her.
So, I just took it off and sat there.
“Give me that shoe,” she said.
Gee whiz, that son of a gun hit me with it, right on the ear. She knocked me off the bench; and if that was not enough, she came at me again. This time I was watching and I rolled away. She hit the floor with a BANG. She got real mad, but just then another Sister walked in. She didn’t hit me anymore. She might have killed me there, just for that shoe being holey.
Dear cuzzins, if you or anyone you know is struggling with a visit with depression, suicidal ideation or attempts we want you to know help is available at KUU-US Crisis Line Society.
Adults/Elders (250-723-4050), Child/Youth (250-723-2040), Toll free (1-800-588-8717), or the Métis Line (1-833-MétisBC).